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Can Selfish People Change?

From Our Mailbag:

Hi Dr. Ben,

I've been following your blog for many years and have found so much comfort in similar experiences that we've had with family and friends. I'm writing with hope that you can tell me your opinion on an issue that has been gnawing away at me since I was a teenager.

I have an older brother who I'll call Sam. I'm too exhausted to dance around this so I will simply say that he's the worst person I know. He's a real creep. Allow me to explain why.

As far back as I can recall I wanted to be close to Sam. Wanted to have that family bond that I grew up seeing between siblings on Happy Days, The Cosby Show, and Family Ties. Sam wanted none of it. All he cared about was money and trying to show the world that he had made it.

For years, I wrote his coldness and apathy off to toxic younger sibling syndrome where older siblings want space to do their own thing without their kid brother or sister tailing along all the time. But after a while it became clear that Sam is just a jerk.

My first moment of reckoning happened a few years into building a successful business for myself through Etsy. You are welcome to share this in your newsletter but please don't give away any personal details. After a few years of putting in countless hours, my business was stable enough for me to quit my 9-5 banking job. I guess my parents mentioned this to Sam because he hadn't returned any of my calls for two or three years at that point and then out of nowhere he calls wanting to visit with his girlfriend. I wasn't skeptical at that point, only surprised that he wanted to see me. So I had him over for dinner which was super awkward because of how phony he can be.

Then he did it. He said he was starting an investment business and that if I would write him a check for tens of thousands of dollars, he would make it grow far quicker than mutual funds could. You might be thinking that he was offering to help me out for free since we are sister and brother. No, he made it clear that his fee was a percentage of my total investment.

Maybe I'm naive on this but I think you once wrote about this issue and you agree with me that it is distasteful to try to make money off your immediate family. If I had gone to him and asked him for help then sure I would have been happy to pay him regular fees for helping me. But having him reach out to me after ignoring me for years just to solicit for business was...shocking for lack of a better word.

When I discussed what had happened with my parents they told me bluntly that I shouldn't invest a penny with him. Turns out that he had been borrowing large sums of money from them for years and getting angry with them when they wouldn't or couldn't give him more.

Fast forward to this past July. My father passed away after an agonizing fight with brain cancer that had spread to his spine and liver. I found out after the funeral that my father's brothers and sisters gave an envelope of thousands of dollars in cash to Sam to take care of funeral expenses. That money disappeared and my mom was left to cover everything which she could afford but how disgusting is that? Since then he's been siphoning off funds from my mom's accounts in sneaky ways and the part that I struggle with more than anything is that my mom won't confront him because she is afraid that he will get angry and stop seeing her.

I'm just skimming the surface of Sam's appalling behavior over the years Dr. Ben but hopefully you get the picture.

I believe in being compassionate. I believe Maya Angelou's words about people doing better when they know better, and your many reminders that we are doing the best that we can at any moment. Your article about all behavior being out of love or out of a need for love rings true to me.

But when I look at Sam and think about all the ways that he has blatantly stolen from his family and taken advantage of his relatives I can't help but think that there is no such thing as karma. He seems to be living a pretty great life. He has a home that my parents paid for that he no longer has to pay them back for because our dad died and left my mom with enough for her to live on.

Here's my question: Do you think a person like Sam can change? Have you known anyone as selfish and manipulative as Sam change into a better person? Do you believe this is possible or do I believe my instinct that he will continue to live selfishly for the rest of his life?

Sorry for this very long note. If you change my details, maybe you could share it on your blog and ask if others might share their opinions on my situation. I guess I want to know if I should have any reason to hope that I will one day have a loving relationship with my brother or if my best move is to write him off completely even though this will hurt my mom.

Many thanks for all that you do,

Emma B.


Many thanks to Emma for sharing her letter with us. If you can draw on your life experiences and share a thought or two that might be helpful to her, please consider doing so in the comments section below.

With gratitude,



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I feel that the only way your brother will see things the way he should see anything is he will have to fall off his high horse somehow and then something will happen for him to see the error of his ways. You and your mother both tried to help him and nothing is appreciated and that is the reason you both feel as you do. I believe he will change for the better only after something happens.

We can change, but will we, is the question. Give your brother to God, love him from afar and have nothing more to do with him.

I don't agree that you should cut off all communication with him because your mother, despite her enabling him, is still alive,still believes he does no wrong and is still his "potential victim". Even though YOU know how to cut him off and say no, your mother may not ever learn this lesson, due to the blind agape love she has for her son and you will not ever change her mind by reminding her of her sons' past indiscretions. Do you love your brother? I think you must if you wrote such a letter to Dr.Kim. Your brother has an "addiction" problem,but his drug of choice is not alcohol,gambling or pharmaceuticals, but money. Can "addicts" change? Yes they can, but ONLY IF THEY choose to change. Hang in their to protect your mom and be there without judgement on either of them.

Agape love is NOT blind, and it does what is best for a person. Leaving a person in his sin is NOT what is best for him. The truth is the only thing that will set someone free, so agape love will speak up but in a kind way. Also, there is a difference between wise judging (discernment) and being judgmental.

Choices, we all have them. One thing we all have equal parts of and that is time. What will you do with your time?
Left to ourselves we default to the worst traits of our character.
What changes us? Love and our choices in acceptance or rejection of it.

We all have a measure of understanding of what is right and wrong. Our choices in acceptance or rejection of that understanding effects our life of loving thoughts ( or lack thereof). If we nourish and cherish selfishness and selfcenteredness, unfortunately that is what will grow.
Many have said that a personal tragedy is often the only thing that will change our lifecourse into something that will break our heart of selfishness and greed.
Sometimes other methods might work, but usually when one is filled with selfish thoughts it is very uncommon to experience genuine change for the better. However all things are possible with God!
If one reads and accepts the love of Jesus and sees Jesus life of unselfishness and true caring for others, it can affect a heart (mind) change. It is hard for the selfish mind to begin reading the Bible because it does not fit into the self cenetered mindset of the greedy.

The best one can do is to pray, pray, PRAY for them.

THE HOLY BIBLE of the reformation was based on the Recieved Text. The text of the Reformation.
If one truly wants to reform the heart, read that text (kjv, not NKJV)

BUT ONE HAS TO PRAY FOR GUIDANCE before opening the pages, ask and understanding and enlightenment will come!
rlotruthseeker at gmail .

Best regards to you Emma

Yes they can only when something happens or they decide to. Your brother has been enabled by your Mother and sometime we are so close to people we cannot see their fingers holding the trigger to our heart. As a sister I would say just because you share the same DNA protect yourself and put in boundaries for yourself, as mentioned by Debra keep a watchful eye over upur Mother, she may never learn the truth of what your brother is really like. Good luck to you x

He sounds like he does have an addiction problem with money, but his biggest problem is his lack of morals and integrity. You can have an addiction with money and still love deeply. It sounds like this guy lacks the ability to love and feel compassion. I would tell the sister to let go and as the above responder said, love him from afar.

You need to release him to God and the universe. Sit quietly, envision bringing him to God, who is sitting on a throne, larger than life, and quietly place him at God's feet. Quietly you walk away. Take a deep breathe, and open your eyes. Limit your interaction with him, protect yourself with light surrounding you, envision a shield around you in his presence. Do not engage in anger. You are not your brother's keeper. Release him.

My parents told us they wanted to choose the best POA for them upon their death, and of 4 daughters and one son, they chose the son (my brother). My brother, upon taking over their estate when my parents were no longer competent, began a covert operation of cleaning out my parent's house in Florida, and not telling any of us exactly what he was doing. Upon the death of my father and mother (mom passed just this past September), my brother told us there was nothing left in their estate. Said he had to put out some of his own money to keep mom in Assisted Living. Over the past two years, all of my sisters have told my brother that we wanted to help. He just kept saying he could handle it. Found out he signed a paper just this past June, stating that Mom was competent. He created an LLC with himself as the principal, and purchased the house. Then dissociated himself from the LLC (so Medicaid couldn't bawk) and passed it to a Manager (an ex girlfriend). My brother told us he had gone to Florida to repair some house issues down there, but instead, he was getting all the paperwork ready, and sold the house in June 2016. Refused to sit down with all his sister to explain why there is no house for us to use, as it was told to all of us when my parents were alive, by them, that they wanted us to share a legacy of being able to get out of the cold in the winter, as they had been able to do. Two days ago, I contacted my brother, and asked him directly what went on. He told me he legally and ethically did what he had to do to keep mom in Assisted Living. I told him there is a difference between doing what you have to do, and doing what you choose to do. He chose to shut us out, intentionally from the very beginning, so that he could manipulate the funds and property for his own investment. He is a manipulator of the worst type. My sisters walk on eggshells around him for fear he will bellow and become verbally abusive. I have had no relationship with him for years, although I put on the "act" during family gatherings, because of his verbal abuse when I asked any questions during our parents care. A large part of me wants to forget what my brother did. A large part of me is very sad that my brother is so emotionally ill that he is willing to throw family relationships away over money. But an even larger part of me wants to forget this evil part of the universe, and concentrate on our new grand daughter and our own daughters who are the light of our life. It is hard though, when my brother is telling people he has the house because we all owed our parents money. He found a "book" with loans from mom and dad over the years, and JUST told me the other day I had an outstanding loan, that he decided to "forgive". I sent him a copy of the cancelled check to my Mom, which was a floater loan when we closed on our home 6 years ago. He was going around telling acquaintances this info, who were also our friends, so it got back to us. His need is not so much money, it is power over, and ability to manipulate. He continues to manipulate my sisters, because they are afraid of him, he has gotten into their brains. He hates me internally, because he can't control me, and he continually has tried to turn the rest of the family against me. As for Karma, I can only guess if it will happen or not. I could wish bad things for him, but when I was younger I did that once to someone and it became real, so I don't want that on my conscience. Anyway, thank you Dr. Ben Kim for sending this at this time. I know I can get past this. Thank you for letting me vent.

NO! Selfish people are Narcissistic individuals who will never change. I had to go "No Contact" with my sister and mother. My sister is always in mom's ear manipulating money for failed business startup for herself and for her husbands failed coffee truck business. Not working and living on Obama Care for free, yet living in million dollar home with no job. telling mom that I'm the leech, while I have worked self-sustaining in same career for over 23 years. I was shocked when I watched videos on cult leaders and family narcissists. My family dynamics have gotten worse with court proceedings to write me out of the family trust, by greed of my sister manipulating mom with dementia. Karma, she has mental health issues, heart issues, husband is always high and gone avoiding her, and she is tortured in yer mind with obsessive thoughts and never forgives or forgets. She puts others down to make herself feel better, just like mom. Do not expect this person to change.

I could read all the comments people have made but I already found the best one and the others really say too much if they do not say this. Give it over to God and love him from afar. Have nothing to do with him. Pray your mother can do the same.

I agree completely with Dianne. I have a similar sibling, and I think that as long as people like this have at least one person who will enable their behavior, they will not change. In my family's case, it's both my parents and also my sibling's children (at least for now, but the children may separate from the drama someday). I think change will only come after every person who has been used and abused by this person slams the door in her face and truly means it. I haven't spoken to my sibling for about four years now. I finally stopped caring about having a relationship, which I think means that I stopped attaching my feelings of self-worth to whether or not the relationship succeeded. I had allowed this person to bully me, to insult me and to continually manipulate me -- all in the name of "peace" and "family ties." Yes, it's sad that unlike a lot of people, I cannot have a relationship with my sibling, but no relationship is sure better than continuing to suffer. I think parents put up with this garbage continually because they feel guilty and ashamed perhaps for having created a monster. They think that if they can appease this child over and over the child will at least stay quiet and will "behave," at least to the outside world (which is all my parents ever cared about...i.e. what will the neighbors think? It didn't matter that within the private walls of the family home there was heartache, strife and extreme hate; as long as it all looked okay to the outside world). On a final note: Jesus said to pray for those who hurt you. I've only done this a few times in my life for my sibling, but I did have peace in my heart afterwards. I need to do it more often; that is, if I ever even think about her, which I rarely do. Jesus never said that we have to be in active relationships with our enemies, he just said to pray for them, which means to me that you can maintain a safe and healthy distance from your brother but remember him in your prayers, if you do pray, and ask him to be blessed with peace. The winner here will be you and you will have renewed peace and self-worth knowing that you have the power to take the spiritual "high road" and pray for him. Wishing you only the best as you search your heart for how to proceed. Reaching out to Dr. Ben Kim was a wise step!

Thank you Dr. Kim and thank you Dana,

Yes, my experience is just the same, these narcissistic people will not change.
I have unfortunately two hard ones among my close ancestors – namely my late mother and the worst: my living godmother. If there is poison for the human soul this person is that. My mother died this last April, and although I had to cut my ties with my godmother formerly because of her poisoning attitude and acts for my life and my children lives pushing us to danger, but after the funeral she just jumped on me, started all of her manipulations, demanding, ruling, lies…yes, all of those in the name of peace, love and family.
Her own physician told me – you have only one duty about this old woman – to RUN AWAY from her….
But I tried to help her…finally getting shingles from the stress caused by her.
No, they do not know moral, only speaking about it a lot, and they do not have any responsibility for their terrible acts…because always their victim is guilty.

So, I cut this tie again, wishing long life to her without me and my family.
I have real duties, which are really important for the future of the real LOVE.

You have suffered enough. Commit this person to God and stay away from her for the rest of your life! May God bless you, and DO NOT feel guilty at all for removing her from your life!

"How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours." Wayne Dyer

After reading Emma's letter I couldn't help but think of the Two wolves parable.... From my experience of having a very selfish, physically and mentally abusive father that neglected not only myself, but my 4 other siblings , my experience has lead me to believe that the longer a person is the way they are the harder for them to change. The bad behavior has been "fed" for so long that it is very difficult for a person to change their destructive patterns and behavioral traits. The only advice I can give is to not let the anger define or hold you back from experiencing true joy in your life and the ability to trust others who are genuinely good decent people. It is very difficult to not carry a void or hold onto the anger that so easily comes along with having a sibling or parent (family member) that solely cares only about his or herself.

I have been fortunate enough to have met some amazing people in my life and sought help at an early age to deal with the feelings I had been left with from growing up in an environment void of love. However, I saw and still see the toll it has taken on my siblings. In fact it has really helped me appreciate good people and the meaningful relationships I have made along the way. In addition, I love my children and husband so much more than I could have ever thought possible and I am so thankful I can give my kids the love I did not get and wanted so much as a child. Furthermore, to see how much my husband loves our kids is a gift I get to experience every day, a gift I don't know that I would have appreciated as much as I do if I did not experience what I had lacked growing up.

My advice is to be close with your mom and love her, and love yourself! Don't allow someone to dim your inner light. Appreciate good days, good friends and close family that much more. I feel sorry for people like your brother they are missing out on so much!

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life...

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

"One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

"This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
"Which wolf will win?"

The old chief simply replied,
"The one you feed."

Author Unknown

A wise priest once shared that liking something or someone is a matter of taste. A friend of his could never understand how this priest could not like mushrooms. But it is a matter of taste. Just like the fact that there are many people this priest said he does not like; controlling-type people, etc. he continued by saying, Jesus did not command us to like everyone, because that is a matter of taste. But Jesus does command us to love God and one another. Love is a matter of will. We can will to love everyone even if we do not like the way they are. We do not need to hang out with people we do not like but we know that God wills us to love them anyway. With the grace of God, we can 'will' to love even our most difficult siblings. Just give up on wanting to like them too, for your own well being. Love them by praying for them and never giving up hope that they will become Christ-centered rather than self-centered.

All people are capable of change; however, most people only become willing to change when the cosmos presents them with sufficient incentive to change and little choice.
Your brother apparently has simply never been given sufficient incentive to change.

If you love your brother, the best gift you could ever give him in life would be to give him some incentive to change his behavior...before the cosmos does.

The cosmos will eventually give your brother incentive to change his behavior...
and when the cosmos does give him that incentive, it won't be pretty.
Karma is not instantaneous, but karma is real.

Please look after yourself and continue the healthy relationship with your mother - I understand the pain your brother must cause to you - no one can change him except himself. IF he ever chooses to relate in a healthy way? stand back from front line battle with him - keep a distance and if you can then pray for him.....this Is my advice ...I have lost years to a narcissist and I no avoid them at all costs and try to form reasonable and responsive empathetic healthy relationsips with good people Godbless xxx

I agree you should cut all communication with him.There are people in this world known to psychologists as Narcissists who are extremely manipulative, selfish and highly TOXIC and unfortunately your brother sure sounds like one. If he continues to exploit your mother, I would recommend you find her a lawyer to try to protect her assets before he leaves her destitute and broke. Many states also have agencies that offer protective services for the elderly against ABUSE and exploitation. And in some states there are laws against abuse of the elderly. I would start looking into all your options as it sounds like he is truly a total creep. Psychologists will tell you Narcissists and Sociopaths rarely change, so I would NOT count on it. There a lot of good books on narcissism and how they operate. Read up on it so you and your mother don't end up victims of his evil nature.

Dear Emma, I struggled with a similar situation.... The answer is "no" they cannot change..... There is no reason to, it is working for him! I suggest you read Scott Peck book, Children of the Lie. He wrote A Road Less Traved. It explains people like this and helped me to quit suffering over their manipulative evil ways..... You are the one hurting, not him .... It will
Bring it to a conclusion and peace for you. Regards, Kathi

I used to believe that people could change but in my own experience, after years and years of continually getting taken advantage of by a sibling, and to clarify, this is a sibling who has borrowed five figures' worth of money from the only surviving parent with no intention of paying a penny back, I realized that my sibling has a narcissistic personality disorder. These people will suck you dry and not feel a whit nor a pang of guilt. They feel entitled to whatever they get, whether through honest means or unscrupulous ones. No parent wants to warn a child about another one but some people are beyond redemption! It's just based on my experience, but I've found that someone just gets worse and worse with age. I would recommend that Emma create healthy boundaries and protect herself from exploitation because that's what will happen. Nothing hurts like getting burned for the tenth, twentieth or fiftieth time! I wish I had more positive news to share but with this situation, it's important to save one's self and spirit from further harm. Dr. Phil once said, "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." I've seen it happen. Best of luck, Emma.

Emma is spot on in her assessment. It is unfortunately typical to spend YEARS accommodating a person with Narcissistic or Borderline Personality disorder before finally realizing that they suffer from a mental illness, and that you MUST build your own life separately, not allowing their intrusion but remaining gracious where possible without getting involved in accepting the energy of their behavior in any way. Setting energetic boundaries is essential. A definitive, straightforward, easy to read, and solution oriented text on this issue is Margalis Fjelstad's Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get On with Life (search
It really helps in recognizing and dealing with this genuine problem.

Excellent advice. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Research narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder. Don't stress about karma - there's a bigger picture there and we can't always see it in the medium term (like an ant walking up the leg of a table, we just know we're walking....). It helps me to remember that the people who hurt us most are often the BEST teachers. Good luck!

Saul of Tarsus was changed to apostle Paul by the power of Christ. Only the devil cannot changed, any human being can be changed by the power of God. If you are a blood bought christian, please intercede for you brother.

My old man was the most selfish, self-centered, racist, demeaning & hurtful person that I have ever known. I left home at 15 1/2 just to get away from him and not be like him. He never changed, and left my mom with nothing much for all the years she put up with him. No, people don't change.

Hi Emma,
Your brother sounds like a sociopath. There is a difference between just being self centered and being a sociopath. Sociopaths are beyond help, whereas someone who is simply selfish, can change if they recognize the behavior and make a concerted effort to correct it. Your mother being co-dependent doesn't help the situation. You can be in his company when it is necessary, but there is no need to reach out or to let him into your life when it isn't. There are a lot more sociopaths than people realize, because they are chameleons that know how to charm and manipulate to get want they want. Kudos to you for not letting him manipulate you.

Best of Luck,
Linda B.

This is just what I was thinking, that he sounds like a sociopath. I read an interesting book on this subject called, The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout, ph.d. Perhaps you would find this helpful.

I think it can go either way, they say leopards don't change their spots which I think is true, but surely there has to be some exceptions. I think life experiences are the only influence on people changing their selfish ways, they have to get bitten to be changed to a decent person.

I am sad to say that some people are bloodsuckers. They will find the person with the biggest veins and will continue to suck until the veins are dry, the will then look for a new victim . These people need to be stopped! They don't look out for anyone else but them selves. I wish you luck, and for heavens sake DON'T GIVE HIM ANY MONEY. If he ends up in jail, he belongs there! Help your mother and other realitives understand he has a problem. He is an adult. It's time to act like one.

No. It's my experience that extremely selfish people such as you describe will not change. They don't want to. They are sociopaths. It matters not how wonderful and secure their upbringing and family were. I was married to such a man for 30 years. He had wonderful parents and siblings and he was brought up in the church. He was only interested in people if they could give him something. He manipulated many people and lied repeatedly. He stole his children's piggy bank money and later stole their college funds. He stole his elderly mother's car. He stole from partners and when confronted he felt no guilt and no remorse. My advice is to quit hoping for him to change. Quit hoping for a warm relationship with your brother. There are flaws in his character that prevent a change or his even caring about one. He only wants to use people who are friendly, loving, caring and forgiving. He sees those traits as weaknesses and those people as easy marks. This is not the fault of anyone in your family. It could be karma in a way you can't see. He's paying for something that was done in a previous life. Or perhaps it's an inherited trait from an ancestor. To protect yourself from him and to protect your own sanity, separate from him emotionally and physically or you will find yourself being used further. It's not likely that he's concerned that he owes his parents money or support. He probably could foresee that he could get away with what he was doing. It's painful but there are people like this in the world who use and hurt those who love them. It's best to avoid him and don't expect anything from him.

Right on!

I think Emma's brother is very insecure. Indeed what he has done is atrocious. Can he change? Only with therapy, turning to God's Word, gaining confidence.

In today's world alot is expected of men and success. I get the feeling he feels he can't succeed.

My brother is the same way as Emma's brother. My parents had him in therapy for 20 years, but he never really changed. He got more comfortable with himself, but still was the greedy jerk he had been all his life. He lived with my parents, and was like a vulture waiting for the bodies to drop so he could get his inheritance. He squandered the money he inherited, and expected me to give him money when he needed it for repairs in his condo. When I said no 10 years ago he never called me again. I used to feel guilty saying no to him, but then I found out people like him look for a new source of supply for their mooching. He found it, ended up with a woman with a home and a job who married him. I really felt sorry for her, but there was nothing I could do to warn her, and I don't think she would have been willing to listen to me because she was so excited about finding such a good looking guy who wanted to be with her. I have no idea what happened, but I'm relieved he stays away from me.

Emma; I have a brother that is no one I care to be friends with, haven't seen him in 7 years and my life is better without him. Liar, cheat, thief, manipulator, selfish agenda's, robbing my mother blind, trying to trick her into taking on his IRS debt. Not on my watch. I suggest you find a way to protect your mother. I verbally warned my brother with charges if he did anything to hurt our mother physically, mentally, emotionally or financially. I took care of her for 13 years and when she died he only did one to the insurance policy money. If you allow him in he will eventually destroy anything good left between the family. Love is foreign to people like them. Mj

As I was reading through the comments here, I had this exact thought. You must find a way to disconnect from him yourself but still protect your mother. I think this might mean you will not be able to just cut off all contact with him. If you need to be around for your mothers sake, I hope you can disconnect from him emotionally so he can no longer manipulate you.

In answer to the letter by Emma B. I want to first say that I have a brother that is the same way. No one knows for sure if people like your brother and mine will ever turn around but I know one thing for sure and that is that there are some people in this world who are toxic to us. They harm us in their words and behavior and even if someday they turn their behavior around right now you need to protect yourself and your loved ones from them and if they turn themselves around then you can re-evaluate then. It is important that you protect yourself and your loved ones from these people because they can harm you emotionally, mentally, and physically. Even if you don't think they would ever physically harm you, they are doing just that by the stress they put you under which causes you physical harm. I know this first hand and I had to leave most of my family and create a new family of those who love and care for me not try to destroy me. Even if they don't understand how harmful their behavior is, it is still doing you harm so until they turn themselves around. Please protect yourself. I have to believe that the best revenge is living well. I hope you do well. You sound like a loving caring person and there are not enough of those in this world. Kim

You can't fix other people. You can choose to be free of their toxicity by turning them over to God and shielding yourself and others by surrounding yourself with the Love and Light God is. Personally, I have gone through a similar experience. I asked God for a vision to help me. I saw that the two of them were on the other end of a tug rope and I was alone on my end. I was tired of the struggle and let go of the rope. They fell in the mud. Two days later they agreed to a settlement of our financial drama, thereby releasing me from the pain and angst.

Yes, I think people can change, but, I believe only God can do the change in him. No, I haven't *personally* met anyone who has changed that drastically, but I do believe that when God takes a hold of someone, they can change. I think he may continually live selfishly if no one stands up to him, because he seems to think that he is entitled to getting help from others. I suggest being firm in not giving in to his financial "needs". I think your mom is living off of fear and guilt in thinking that she will never hear from him again if she confronts him. That will only enable him further. I say these things from my own experiences with my sister's significant other. From the moment he stepped into our lives, since he got my sister pregnant, he has drained my mom and dad of time, money, and energy. Even was abusive toward them, but there seems to be a stronghold there that keeps them from kicking him out of the house. They have four children and my mom has a hard time kicking them all out because she's always been afraid that they will have to live on the streets. Anyway, sadly your mom is only enabling him to continue in this cycle. I'm sure it is heart wrenching for her to think that he might not talk to her if she confronts him. I hope that she musters up the strength to stand up to him. And maybe it would be a good thing if you were there as well to support her and be ready to make a phone call if he ends up getting violent. Praying you find peace in the chaos, my friend!

I recommend that you love your brother from afar. If you believe in God and the power of prayer then, I believe this is the only hope for him. Eventhough it seems like he is not suffering any consequences now, the bible states that there is a judgement and all will be judged at the end of this age. God is just but He is also merciful. If you love your brother, intervene for him because truly, only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction and hopefully, he will come to repentence. In the meantime, I would not pursue a relationship with him. Don't put your hope in him but in the Almighty.

Hi Dr. Ben,
Emma's brother seems to be a perfect example of a narcissist or even a sociopath. I had one of each as a sibling and I don't believe they can change. They are difficult personality disorders to treat because they don't believe there is anything wrong with them! The telling characteristic would seem to be the sibling's response to being told "No". People with these personality disorders seem incapable of putting someone else first. I would recommend the book 'Why is it Always about You: The seven deadly sins of narcissism'

If her brother is truly siphoning off funds there are simple legal remedies. Go to the banks or brokerage firms holding the accounts and make changes to the documents giving him access to the accounts. He doesn't even need to know it has happened... and he probably shouldn't know about it ahead of time. If he is doing it to his own Mother he is probably doing it to his clients and that is a crime... Well it is also a crime to do it to his Mother but will she call the prosecutor's office just for her loss? It would be a good thing if she did because she would be protecting innocent people who don't realize what is going on. I have been in this situation and it won't get any better as Emma's Mother ages and it may get a lot worse.
All my best wishes to Emma and her Mother for what is a difficult situation that will only get worse as time goes on.
Rev. PT

I personally believe that anyone can change if they want to and are willing to put in the necessary work, because change is not easy. But if they are not willing to di either, it's up to us to decide when we've had enough of their selfishness and let them go, with love and blessings to them

Emma, I am so very sorry for the brother you have. Hopefully it will be ten years before you hear from him again. There is nothing wrong with forgiving yourself because you can't make your brother be who you want him to be. But I personally don't feel you have to announce this new way of dealing with your brother to anyone. Parents tend to blame themselves when they have a child who has become the type of person your brother is. So your Mother maybe outwardly upset with you but deep down she is not. She is doing a lot of sole searching wondering where she went wrong with your brother. There are some people that truly only think of themselves and there isn't any type of parenting that would make a difference. There is only one person who can change his human behavior and that is your brother. Say a prayer when you see your brother be cordial the way you would with any human and be done with it.

Dear Emma, You are a beautiful person and this I know from your descriptions of people, including your brother. Have you read about sociopathy? He might be one of them. My sister (my only sibling and younger than me) is a piece of work too. She has very hi IQ like my father who was Mensa type and fantastic human being. She always caused problems and loved to pin the blame on me which Mumsy accepted verbatim. Fast forward, Mumsy went back to England to live with an old Airforce friend after our father passed on and then my mother's friend also passed on. Mumsy was very wealthy. I never cared about that. We talked about her coming back to N. America and I suggested she live with my sis 6 mos. and 6 mos. with me. I like theatre and music and my sister lives on a farm in Kentucky and is a nurse with several children and a husband who lives in a trailer. So without me knowing Mumsy purchases a little house in Kentucky and my sister moves in with her and no, my mother won't be living with me half the year. I visited a couple of times and it was painful - my mother (looked just like the Queen) in this setting was not happy I think and I gently broached the subject and she told me some wild behaviour on the part of my sister's husband - he wouldn't ever knock on the door, drove up in the truck followed by a pack of dogs and the door would burst open and he would keep talking from that minute on. It made me sad, but my sister has always been a very powerful type of person and "got her own way." July 7 I called my Mum to wish her Happy Birthday and she was 87 - we had a great conversation and she said, I think I'd like to live to be 90, a nice round number! By August she was dead. My sister, a nurse, told me after I had signed the cremation documents and faxed them back to the funeral home, that she had broken the rules of nursing and had given my mother an overdose of morphine. My mother was a very bright and sparky woman who would have had a Living Will if she felt she was going to die. When I received a copy of the will I found that my sister had it changed in January of the year she killed my mother and it was 2/3 to her and 1/2 to me. But she'd already milked so much from my mother's capital that I don't make myself feel ill thinking about it. All I want to say to you is NO, people who are mean when they're growing up and are siblings, DO NOT change. I'm always the Goody Two Shoes type and there's a big sign over my head saying "if you need anything just come to me" - I attract alcoholics, you name it. I've lived a long life and BTW I did take my sister to court in her state. My background is law and I just wanted her to be held accountable in a public way. I didn't have to appear, but the ladies in the courthouse were very helpful to me and I have a recording of the hearing. I have never spoken to my sister again after the phone call and I never will. I do not feel guilty and I think forgiving her is rubbish. I forgive myself for feeling so badly about something I couldn't stop. You are surely a very sincere person, Emma. Sometimes we need to protect ourselves, particularly if we arrive with a tank full of love on this planet. I choose my friends carefully now and I'm much more a peace. Wishing you love, light and happiness every day of your life as you surely deserve it.

I would say to Emma don't write off your brother for where there is life there is hope. Pray for him, love him unconditionally and leave the rest to God. When you think of your brother, send him positive, loving thoughts even though that may seem hard to do. Push away every negative and angry thought and replace it with loving thoughts. This may be hard to do but persistence will bring success and above all forgive your brother for love can not grow in the soil of unforgiveness.
May the God of Love add his blessings.
Best wishes

Monika, I would like to add: love him unconditionally and protect your self unconditionally, Emma. There is no reason to explain your self or defend your choices if you never ever ever see him or talk to him again. It sounds like that won't be a problem if he does not get a whiff of money from you. Your mother needs to be protected. Some states have elder abuse protection laws. I hope for all your sakes you can find a way to limit your contact with him and your mom but your mom might not be able to cut him off from her cash for what ever reason. He could in fact be dangerous, from what you have said.

Dearest Emma,
I wish life was like the movies, where the 'bad' guy gets a lesson in charity and reforms. But it's not. I wish I could think of one single person in my 60 years of living, who has done that, in reality. But I can't. My life has been rife with family pain and drama and the only thing I have been able to do successfully, is to protect myself. You don't have to leave or 'get them back' and it's unlikely that others will share your feelings or even offer you solace. People like your brother are broken and you cannot fix them. If you offer opposition they will make you out to be the bad one but if you offer love, understanding and a very firm "No. Thank you for your kind offer but it is not something I'm interested in.", (Whatever it is) they will move on to the next target. When you see them, not as successful, but as they truly are, broken and unrepairable, you can have compassion for them, knowing that they have no peace in their heart or in their mind. You are not responsible for them so can offer only a smile and wish them well as they continue on to the next 'big plan'. I know it's not easy but solutions can be found for most things. If your Mother can't say 'no' to him maybe she will be able to place her money with a person or institution which will make it impossible for her to release any funds to him, saying it was a wise business decision.... or just tell him it is so. That is between them and you should respect her wishes as she is doing the best she can in the situation.
You must not hold a grudge against him for his empty accomplishments or things he had obtained in less than honourable ways because you will be the one suffering while he coninues, cluelessly through his life. Would you wish to be like he is, for a house. No. Not for a mansion or a castle.
I wish you well. I wish you peace. Live your life without regret.

Well said Brenda...I think you have given very wise, sound, and experienced advice.

I know this is hard but, no, your brother will never change. I have been in the same situation but with a sister, Robin. She is truly manipulative and will do anything for money. She spread gossip around the family to make herself look like she was the only deserving daughter (out of four) to inherit from her father and mother. She actually told my mother horrible things about me so that she wouldn't see me the last four years of her life, and actually disinherited me from her will. I visited with a psychologist who told me that one rotten apple can spoil the bunch! I lost my mother last month, but let me tell you that if someone is a manipulative liar in your family, you need to run. Do not chose complacence, separate yourself from the toxic person. I hold my head up today knowing I protected by three children from a toxic family and know that I choose the right path. There is not money enough in the world (especially combating a greedy sibling)that is worth your mental health. God knows the truth and so will your loved ones when they pass. You should always remember that you need to honor yourself. Unfortunately, there are too many stories like yours out there today. Hope your are able to make the best decision for you and that your are always looking to the light!

Nope, your brother will not change. Even more so, there is nothing you can do to change that.
My brother-in-law is exactly the same. He wreaked havoc on all my husband's immediate family, tried to destroy our marriage, tried to bully his way to more than his share of the final inheritance. I was a mess, and worse so was my husband, the eldest who was settling the estate and kept falling for his brothers tricks.
I finally sought help from a trusted spiritual guide, and this is what she told me: every day, pray your brother-in-law gets exactly what he ants. Attach no strings to this. It was very hard but I did that. Every day I meditated and prayed he would be able to do whatever he pleased. Lo and behold, my brother-in-law started backing off trying to bully my husband, and since he got the last penny he was entitled to, he has left us alone.
So - my advice is to ask the Universe, God, whoever, to let your brother play out his wishes. Karma will step in, and maybe in another life he will be open to a new way.
You have a life to life - go live it!
Best wishes.

My older brother sounds similar. It was like growing up with a junkie except his addiction was money, status and expensive things, including property and fast cars - all paid for by my parents and myself under duress and anyone else he could charm into giving him a loan that would never be repayed. He continues like this to this day.
Like you I feel a sadness for the brother I have lost and a hope that one day we might have a relationship again, but rationally I feel that this will never be and for my own health and wellbeing I have removed myself from the situation and have only very limited email contact with him. My brother does seem to have a loving side to him, though I often wonder if this is not a kind of preamble for the next demand for money. Now that I have cut myself off from him I get the odd message of 'I miss you and I wish you would come visit' which makes me feel sad and long for reconnection, but I must remind myself of the reality which is a bit of a vicious circle of abuse followed by apology, loving preamble then demands and pleas for money and once rejected, back to abuse.
Like any type of addiction the only solution seems to be to let them sink or swim on their own and be responsible for their own behaviour. Maybe only beyond this is their hope for change but I can't say as my father continues to support my brother financially. When there is no repercussion to their abuse why would they ever need to change - they continue to get what they want. I guess I can't offer you any advice, just sympathy. Sending you lots of love.

I think that all you can do is take care of yourself and try help others avoid the harm that your brother inflicts on everyone in his life. There's nothing you can do to change your brother - he sounds like a sociopath- but you CAN take care of yourself and your mother. A mental unbalance like that isn't something that can be cured. You can't control that and it's OK to let go.

My experience is that unless your brother has a "come to Jesus" moment, there can be no change. Your brother has not had to be any different than he is because he's always been rescued. He has been programmed to believe that people exist for his benefit. Unless people stop feeding this behavior, he has little need to change. If you are spiritual you can pray for him and leave it with God. In the meantime you should not feel guilty or try to "fix" him. Take care of yourself and your family. If possible, keep an eye on your mother and see if she's open to changing her accounts. You didn't say whether she complains or talks to you about your brother's behavior. Maybe she would be open to getting some counseling on how to handle your brother. Some unresolved issue within herself drives her behavior. The fact that she fears your brother getting angry or not talking to her is most likely based on something in childhood. Sometimes you just have to separate yourself from loved ones for your own mental and emotional health as well as theirs. I was married to a man like this for ten years. He only cared about himself. Unfortunately, he never changed. Through the years I have seen a couple of people I'm close to acknowledge their irresponsible behavior and change their ways to a large degree. Again, it was usually through a spiritual conversion. Never give up hope!

No, selfish people cannot change. They are called narcissists and sociopaths. Read this book, "The Sociopath Next Door." Very good book. They say one in ten people are sociopaths. They are hardwired that way and cannot change and they do not want to change. You need to avoid them, even if they are family members. It is very painful, but there is nothing you can do to change them. All you can do is protect yourself and steer clear to avoid more pain.

I was going to suggest this book, and see that someone already has. It's an excellent book. I had someone in my life that created that same kind of havoc, playing with one's emotions and borrowing money from anyone who would fall for the charm (or even a hang-dog expression), which appeared only when necessary to get what they wanted. I think these people are capable of discerning what kind of people they can con and they zero in on them. One can feel so alone, like they are imagining all the chaos, but the good people, like yourself, who wouldn't even dream of behaving like this, always seem to fall for it and think it's something wrong with themselves. It doesn't mean you can't forgive them, and release yourself from your anger but, as many have said here, that doesn't mean giving in to them and letting them walk all over you. He will probably never change, even if they act like they have, so be safe, take care of yourself, and please read that book! it sure opened my eyes.

I am reading the Law of One (you can Google it), which explains how there are service to self (your brother) and service to others people in this creation. You can also use the terms negative polarity and positive polarity. By the sound of your article, I don't see your brother changing his polarity in this lifetime. He is a classic service to self person, which is characterized by control of others, money, power, and fame. Look at this planet's rich, power hungry elite. This is their version of reality, and even their path to Oneness with the Creator. As we evolve into higher dimensions, from 3rd density on to 4th, 5th, to 6th and beyond to 7th, which is oneness with the Creator, we usually maintain the same polarity. When 6th density is reached, a person must flip to positive polarity. At that point, he would have to flip to positive if he wants to progress. We are talking about eons of our years for all of this to occur, and changing from this carbon based body to a lighter body. We are becoming crystalline based and raising into 4th and 5th density right now on Earth, as we have reached the end of a 75,000 year cycle in 3rd density! Rejoice that you have incarnated at this time for the shift into Ascension (or harvest, as the Law of One would put it). The Law of One was channeled in 1981 by a 6th density social memory complex that influenced our Earth in Egypt in ancient times. I think you would find it fascinating, and it would really help you to see who your brother is, and why blood relations have little to do with a person's polarity.


I'm with you Katie. Double 'What?!?!'

hi i googled the law of one but could not come up with any books and lots of names were associated with this title ... are you speaking of work by David Wilcock whom I have heard speak on Coast to Coast? Can you link me to the books?

I get it ... where can i find these books?

Dear Emma. Your experiences with your brother are truly heartbreaking, and I completely understand your dilemma and your question as to whether there is any hope of him changing. Your reference to Dr. Kim's reminder that we are all either acting with love or out of a need for love is important to remember. It's true, and, at the same time, we can't know the inner workings of anyone else nor can we ever really understand what may be the cause of behavior such as that of your brother. I would guess that there is deep suffering in him that has distorted his view of the world, and that he is not at all in touch with it. He is responsible for his actions, and he is also responsible for whether or not he does the work necessary to look inside, with help, and find the source of his pain that he is pouring out by hurting others. You cannot do anything but have compassion and, at the same time, protect yourself from him. You sound more hurt and disappointed than angry and that's a good thing. Sending him anger and aggression would just fan the flames he's already got burning. I would work on this within yourself, not hoping for him to change, but accepting the situation as it is as you practice sending out love and compassion to him....from a distance. Thinking of you....Dottie

These comments have been very helpful to my own ongoing situation with family members. My only addition to the comments that I've read so far is to try not to stay in "hurt and disappointment". Allow yourself to get angry. I was in the hurt and disappointment stage for a long time and when I finally allowed myself to get angry, I was able to separate myself from those family members that continued to cause great harm to me. Anger is a moving forward emotion, whereas disappointment and hurt feelings keep you stuck, unable to move on. Anger helps you take action.
I also don't think there is anything that you can do to help your brother. You can only control what goes on within your own heart and soul.

Precious Emma, Reading your letter to Dr. Kim jerked a tear. Your wonder speaks of your goodness. My sisters and I are experiencing a similar struggle with our brother, and I want to encourage you to never give up hope that Sam will change and be reconciled with your family. After going through phases of disappointment, anger, sadness, sympathy and even apathy, we have very deliberately decided to devote ourselves to prayer, forgiveness, kindness, acceptance and boundaries, and with that comes great peace. I have seen many dramatic changes in people who surrender their will to the Lord's will (myself included), so I know to the depths of my soul that people can change. The choice, though, is Sam's. So, be blessed as you continue to live a good life and wait expectantly for Sam to change. Even if he doesn't, God can give you strength to cope with it. I hope this encourages you. And congratulations on your Etsy business! I admire you for your great accomplishment!

Hi Emma, If you want to read a good book about people who simply do not have a conscience, read "The a Sociopath Next Door". There are people who are not wired like you and I. 1in 25 people, according to the book , do not have remorse or conscience about their actions . It sounds like your brother falls into this category. The only way he would change is if he felt remorse. The best thing you can do is protect your mother from
His manipulation a. Get power of attorney for her accounts. Good luck..

Sad to hear your plight, but I can only advise, write him off.

Better an end with pain than endless pain.

Dear Emma,

I have had a similar experience with an older sister. The details of behavior are different, but the consistency in behavior, the constant hopes-raised-only-to-be-dashed-again pain experienced is the same. It took me more than 70 years (! Yes!) to finally realize that my particular Lucy was ALWAYS going to pull that football away just before I kicked it, and my choice was to either fall on my back every time or refuse to play the game. For the past two years I have stayed away from her physically, respond to her written or telephoned invitations with courtesy and good humour, and always respond with a clear refusal. I do not talk about her with other relatives, do not trash her in any way, but my life has been immeasurably more peaceful and happy since I decided to not see her anymore. I have also done a lot of forgiveness work over my past relationship with her, and as a result the old wounds no longer fester. There may come a time when I will feel safe or comfortable being in her presence, but until then, I just keep my distance and wish her well. The only person I know I can change is myself.

I am one to believe that people like that (have a brother very similar) they feel the world owes them and it seems to me that it's part of their personality and they never fully change. Sorry to say, good luck.

Dear Emma,

It is not a question of can a person change but of whether they will ever want to. Of course anyone is capable of changing from bad behavior and cold heartedness just as anyone can go from good to bad. They must make that choice though. Thing is, it's really tough to do in ones on strength once they decide they want to be trustworthy and honorable. It takes work. Willpower against previous bad habits, confronting their own ugliness and even going to the ones they've offerended to seek forgiveness and restoration. They will have well founded fears of rejection. Deep down, please know that your brother knows what a wretch he is and probably can't stand to look himself in the mirror. and because he knows, whether he abmits to it or not, he doesn't love himself and he can't believe that anyone who knows him really lives him either. His rationale is, how could they live a wretch like me? Remember too, that it is impossible to love others if you don't love yourself. This is where your brother lives in his true heart. He has silenced and scared his conscious so badly that he can't hear it anymore. Pain of loss may be the only thing that can bring him back to you and your mom, a doss of tough love and humility to restore his humanity.

I know because i was this way, my Savior Yashua, Jesus Christ, is the only thing that brought me back. He was all that was there when i hit my bottom. I go tonight after driving 6 hours to make a confession to a loved one that has kept me in shame and weakness for 30 years. It will be the hardest thing i will ever do and i would rather go to my grave than to admit how low can sink and to see the pain on her face. But i must confess because it is the right thing to do.

Pray always, without sesing for your brother that God will reach him before to late. Your love and faith, combined with the power of God can bring a man to his knees. Your brother wants to be whole, he doesn't know it yet, nor does he know what that looks like or how to go about it.

But the challenge goes back to you, don't become bitter, hang on to the truth you have, he will need to know you a capable of forgiveness. Love, a changed heart.

Emma you are a kind soul. So be kind when you can, to your brother. But never seek hum out. When he comes around, deep breaths and kindness. But when he cannot profit from you, he will go away. What you must do is protect your Mother. He is bullying her, and may some day physically harm her if she does not comply. This a real threat. Take action. House alarm. Panic buttons. Move all the money to a new account. Never give him a check from the new account. An option is to keep some money in the account he pilfers from, so he can keep stealing from her and avoid confrontation, while protecting the bulk of the funds. Act now. Do not delay.

Check need.
He needs wrathful compassion.

Hello Emma.
I've also been following Dr. Kim's website for number of years now and I just came across your letter...and I can't help myself not to comment.
I can very much so relate to your hope of having that close relationship with your brother as we've seen that other people seem to have or watched on tv. I have a brother that is 5yrs older than me and I've always wanted to have that great relationship with him, so I forgave him for molesting me as young teenager, or beating me up in my late teens for no reason and I had to move out from my parents to be safe, for his manipulative ways due to his ego and obsession with competing to be always bigger and better, etc...there is just no end to it. Then I realized that we just cling to the idea. The only thing you have to write off is the idea. With that you will set him free. Once you set him free, you will be free. Then you can be more open and enjoy even more the people around you like your Mom and everything else. Having no more chains, you won't get hurt as easily, or doubt yourself, because you will accept him as he is and his choice of life. He is a lesson, a reminder of a person that you don't wish to be, just as my brother is to me and I'm thankful to him for that.
"Life is too short to wake up with regrets,
so love the people that treat you right,
forget about the ones who don't,
and believe that everything happens for a reason..."

"Lord grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."


We create our reality from our perceptions.. We may create our own families by sharing our love with those who value us for who we are and who share our understandings and values through WISDOM. We may express truth and love to all, but we must never place ourselves in a position to be abused. And we must learn to TRUST wisely. Expectations create opportunity for disappointment. We are responsible for our feelings...,..thoughts create emotion. Having our best thought each moment can help us create "heaven on earth" within. We cannot create for others no matter how much we think we are SUPPOSED to love them. YOU DECIDE who deserves your love .

I have found through knowing many families that their seems to be one of these, but not always in every family. They just decide to take the easy way in life, that being lying, cheating, stealing, somehow they just don't have a conscious that way. This happened with a girlfriend, she says, should I give her the money, me knowing her sister has scammed everyone else in the family already dutifully said no without even having to think about it, well she gave her the money anyways. What is sad is that Sam is going to eventually come crawling back to you because you'll be the only one he's got, so don't set any behavior patterns you might regret, and work on locking down your Mothers estate so she doesn't go broke either. It's ok to love your brother, and it seems like the more bad they are, the more I see how much they need to be loved, which is the problem, they were loved when they should have been disciplined, somehow the wrong behaviors get rewarded along the way. Or play his game, and help siphon your Mothers accounts into safety under your name. I've even seen family members use identity fraud to steal from the grandmothers, who's the last one who is going to turn you in?, yep blood. Keep loving him Emma but beat him at his own game :)

Hi. I felt it for you. I have the same situation with my family. I know it's very difficult that he's your brother but you will need to protect yourself and your mother's well being by not go near him. Emma, I would love to hear your response after you have so many messages from the people. Will you tell us what's your next plan with your mother and your brother? I would love to hear from you.

How I wish that we could meet and share the heartbreak of being close to someone like your brother. It hurts so very much. But we can meet here. This will do. The narcissistic person I thought I loved has passed on. I thank God nearly every day because I was too weak when he was alive to change anything about our relationship. Through all the pain, emotional and physical, I learned a lot. But I am so grateful that I didn't lose my love for people in the hell I lived in with him. I am wounded. I am broken. But I am free. Be free, Emma.

People don't change until they become desperate.
Your brother must realize how awful his behavior is & realize that you love him--enough to stop enabling bad behavior.

Your brother is a sociopath. And won't change.
Run from him. And don't give him money!

I am in complete agreement with what Sam said. Such people only look their own interests. Nothing can change them.

Hi Emma, These are our karmic connections when we come together as a family in this life. Awareness of his actions is what is missing in his life .So if he had the knowledge that he will have to oay for what he is doing in some way he may change. His spiritual reservoir is getting empty.You can help by making him aware-through books or meditation.

Recalling Paul in the New Testament, he became blind before he again was able to see.
I believe what you need to do is simply remember him in prayer often. There is nothing
you can do to change him, but God's grace can. I don't have a sibling like your brother,
but a friend of mine does. He took most of his mother's money. My friend has had to
have her own boundaries and no longer speaks to him. Maybe your brother should run for
the president of the US...he sounds very similar to our current one.

The prophet Jeremiah said "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? They can you do good who are accustomed to do evil?" Jer. 13:23. With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27 and Luke 18:27. We cannot change anybody but we can pray for them, and in this way we get more saved ourselves from the selfishness and egotism which affects the whole human race to one degree or another. That's why we needed a Saviour who came to save us, and who overcame completely all selfishness and egotism. He is able to save to the uttermost all who will give themselves to Him and submit to His cleansing fire. Someone mentioned the apostle Paul in one of the replies - he who was an arrogant, insolent persecutor of the church - and in God's hands he became a completely changed person, and the greatest blessing possible. The difficulty for us is to pray for someone who is so beastly, but Jesus was able to do this for the very people who were crucifying Him, and He can help us to do the same, to forgive and to intercede, even if we can't do anything else to get through to someone else's heart. If they reject God in the face of all His endeavours to save, right until their dying day, then no one else can help them. But while we pray, God works in many mysterious ways. God bless you in this great work of salvation for ourselves and others.

Everyone is capable of change, however, it can only be initiated from within.
Sometimes dramatic or revealing events can make people change but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen. You can ask yourself if you yourself could have done something differently to at least learn from the experience. Probably not. If someone close by doesn't love or care for you, or treats you badly, you should try distancing yourself from the person and realize that your love is not mutual. Take distance but don't burn any bridges. I'm trying to say that sometimes we need to let go and do the grieving. It might be easier if you realize that your brother never loved or cared for you the same way as you did. The absolutely worst thing you can do is to "invest" money because you really, really, really can't buy love. You can get some false sense of a some kind of love and respect ... but you will relive the pain every time again when you realize the love and respect stops when the money stops rolling in.
You can still love your brother, but do it from a safe distance and expect absolutely nothing in return.
Lots of love,
Sam (another Sam)

Dear Emma, Thanks for sharing. I believe that this issue is much more prevalent than most would think. I also had this dilemma years ago and after much soul searching, prayer and reading all sorts of books I have come to the conclusion that while miracles do happen, it is not something that we can base our actions on and that we must make our lives what we want them to be. While each person's reality and willingness to move forward will be different, I am happy to share with you some thoughts that shaped how I handled a similar situation. Three good sources to read are Louise Hay's "You Can Heal Your Life" and various books and articles by Deepok Chopra. A Third is the Book "The Wisdom of Florence Scovill Shinn" which you can find here on Amazon.

From Louise Hay I learned that I have no control over anything except myself and that no one else can change another person. Ultimately I chose to love this person but to release them from any expectations and to interact with them in the way that is similar to "tough love". Be nice but be firm in your own mind that you will not let them use you for their gain. Knowing that love is not always returned does not mean that YOU should not love them. Find the love that you seek in other places and dwell in those places and relationships rather than trying to move forward with the relationship with your brother. Leave the door barely cracked so that he can choose to come back and always pray for him and wish him the best.

From Deepok Chopra I learned that we do what we do and then we have to let it go and "depersonalize it". I personally could not read his books as they were so in depth but found that his audio tapes were wonderful to listen to (because of his words and because he has a soothing voice).

I later found Florence Scovill Shinn's books and though her writings were from another era, they are still very potent and applicable today. She was, I think, the predecessor to Normal Vincent Peale and Louise Hay. Mr. Peale is known for his books(The Power of Positive Thinking and Positive Imaging: The Powerful Way to change your life) and These can also be found on Amazon.

The biggest thing to me is knowing that this is a life time journey and that I must work on ME and how to make me the best I can be without allowing unnecessary hurts.

Hoping that you will find some help in these references and wishing you love and happiness in abundance with only enough grief thrown in to keep you humble.

It's been my experience, that no, they cannot change.I am 58 years old and estranged from my siblings and was my mother before she passed away in 1998. How truly sad, but it is the way it is. We were raised in regrettable ways, in foster homes, and as much as I wanted a nice normal family, it just wasn't to be that way with my immediate family-when we got older. My sisters grew up to be controlling, manipulative,bossy and so very very selfish. Time after time, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and pushed away circumstances and their motives because I wanted a nice normal family. At times, I wondered if they were even human. Finally, when I was in my thirties, I faced the fact that these people were truly toxic and I had allowed myself to see them as to how I wanted them to be, not how they truly were. That changed everything. I let go, do not stay in touch and wish them all a nice life. Mine is certainly a lot better without them in it. Sooooo sad, but it is what it is. I love you Dr. Kim, and all that you do! :)

When all enabling ceases & no one is intimidated by any temper tantrums, threats, pleas, emotional blackmail, nor anything they say or do, then they might have a chance. Even then, it can take years for reality to break through to them. But as long as they have any person who does not call a spade a spade to their face,they will stay in their comfort zone (selfishness).

Please go to your library or buy "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout.
There are many of these people like your brother living among us, they can be but are not necessarily serial killers. I do not believe there is hope for change. Dr. Scott Peck in his book "The Road Less Traveled" discusses this type of personality.

Selfish people can change only when he or she accepts Jesus Christ by repenting of his or her sins ask HIM for forgiveness and make that change.

Hello Emma,

It takes a lot of courage to ask others for feedback, I recognize that and hope to respond in a way that contributes to your journey.

Change is very difficult, regardless of the personality type. We often have expectations for others that we ourselves cannot fulfill. There are aspects of my personality that I've been working on for over 20 years and still fall into old patterns of behavior.

Whats struck me in your letter is the possibility that your identity is very much invested in your brother's characterization. He's the bad one and you're the good one. I dont say that às a criticism, but rather offer it as am alternativa insight. I highly recommend Byron Katie's Loving What Is. It is very simple and very powerful and I believe will lead you to Acceptance and peace of whoever your brother is or is not.

My biological father was an alcoholic and bipolar, very emotionally abusive to his children. I felt totally justofied in my assessments of him and my decision to not have contact with him. It was only when he commited suicide that I really questioned the whole discourse I had built up around my father. I couldnt save him or change him and I dont have any regrets about putting up boundaries, but I do regret that I didnt work at accepting rather than blaming. I do regret the external focus instead of the internal healing.

All the best

Hello, I've read some of the other comments and I do agree with many of them. The hurt I felt in your letter hurt my heart. And, unfortunately, we (especially women) like to do what we believe is right in our hearts, but ultimately we end up hurting ourselves. The only way your brother will overcome his behaviors is by the love of God. God is love and when a person is so cold-hearted with no remorse or sympathy there is something wrong. Most people have a point at which they show remorse, your brother does not seem to have that gene. He may be a sociopath or I believe someone called him narcissistic, or maybe he is a combination of both. You need to distance yourself, your family and try to get your mother to understand that if he bleeds her dry then what is she going to do? Your moms husband left her with enough money so she would not have to struggle. It's unfair for your brother to take advantage. I would contact a lawyer as to how to keep your brother from accessing any money from your mom. Of course, if she openly gives it to him, there's not much you can do. If you are a woman of faith, start praying specific prayers for your brothers deliverance from whatever spirits are influencing him. God bless you and your family and I will keep you all in prayer.

the Kingdom of God is founded upo equity and justice, and also upon mercy, compassion and kindness to every living soul. One should strive then with all ones heart to treat compassionately all humankind EXCEPT for those who have some selfish, private motive, or some disease of the soul. Kindness cannot be shown to the tyrant, the deceiver or the thief, because far from awakening them to the error of their ways, it makes them to continue in their perversity as before. No mater how much kindliness you may expend upon the liar, he will but lie the more, for he believes you to be deceived, while you understand him but too well, and only remain silent out of your extreme compassion.
I hope it helps you to understand to be away from your brother.
All the best

Definitely NOT a quote from the Baha'i writings. Source, please?

No one will change their behavior unless they see something wrong with it. I have two siblings who are like your brother. I haven't disowned them, I have never wished bad things for them, but I have stopped communicating with them. I believe Karma will handle things when the time is right but I can't allow them to contaminate my world/my family with their toxic ways.
Best if luck to you Emma!

Emma - A rule or principle from behavioral psychology that comes to mind as I read your story and question is that "the best predictor of future performance is past behavior."
So, in the absence of any real or significant new behavior on your brother's part, take his past (and present) behavior as your answer about what to expect from him in the future. Blessings to you.

Dear Emma,
It is my fervent belief that people like your brother can change, but only through the power of the Holy Spirit--I don't know what your beliefs are but I truly believe that God can change your brother's heart. I will pray for your brother........Much Love, Julie

I would like to offer my feedback; and opinion (maybe you can copy and paste). I believe that people can and do change, but the key point is they have to WANT to more than we want them to. It sounds like this brother isn't thinking about changing anytime soon, so I'm afraid that she should just let go of the fantasy of him possibly being a good guy. Another Maya Angelou quote is "when someone shows you who they are; believe them."

Hi Emma,
Your story really touches a lot of people!
I have a similar situation with my brother. No need to tell the story, it's the same stuff with slightly different colors.
I have long worried about the stress and financial burden he puts on my Mother, as I myself decided to quit helping, but to speak and listen kindly.

We have spent years rushing in to try to save the day for him, and it just repeats, year after year after year.

After a tragedy in our lives a couple of years ago, my Mother and I had very frank conversations and she asked me to understand that though my brother seems hopeless, he is still her son, and she cannot bring herself to quit helping him.
She is well aware of how futile her help is in changing anything about him.
Since then, I listen to her frustrations and problems with him with compassion for her. I can't help him, but I can help her.
I don't take the problem on, other than gentle suggestions to help, but the listening is what she needs, the acceptance of her Sisyphus situation is what she needs. Love is hard to turn on and off.
You can listen to your heart and decide what you are willing to put up with, and where your lines should be.
I can tell you, without meaning for this to sound ominous or dark, that sometimes when we lose a person close to us, one that has driven us crazy with fear, disillusionment, or disgust, we can miss them terribly. The whole crazy package. Second guessing our choices.
I tend to agree with the narcissism diagnosis, and you should have boundaries to be healthy and happy, but only you can decide where the lines are.
My very best wishes for your happiness,

on longer thought, all you have to do is figure out what makes you happy and sane. and do that. And change it around when it needs tweaking.
For instance: if talking with him makes you have an emotional down a bit later, don't talk to him. If stressing over him raises your blood pressure, avoid it.
If you can change your own physical reactions to the issue and be calm, then you can take it up again. with caution.
The happier you are, the more balanced you and the universe will be. You already know the answer to your question, you don't need our validation. But we are so willing to validate you. We know what this feels like.

I hope you feel strong with so many chiming in to help you, but remember to make your own choices because only you have to live with this. And it will work out okay eventually. It usually does.
Focus on yourself for a change in life, see if that works for you better.
You have lots of choices. Turning it over to God is too vague, you can't be sure where that's going, but you can test different methods in your actions and see how you feel and how life goes, just put yourself up at number ONE for a change. Try it, I know it sounds crazy, but put yourself first for a change and see how that feels.
I know you will be okay, hang in there,

I used to believe that people could change but in my own experience, after years and years of continually getting taken advantage of by a sibling, I realized that my sibling has a narcissistic personality disorder. These people will suck you dry and not feel a whit nor a pang of guilt. They feel entitled to whatever they get, whether through honest means or unscrupulous ones. No parent wants to warn a child about another one but some people are beyond redemption! It's just based on my experience, but I've found that someone just gets worse and worse with age. I would recommend that Emma create healthy boundaries and protect herself from exploitation because that's what will happen.

Dear Emma:

Yes, I believe that some people can change their lives dramatically but usually after a painful loss in their own life. There needs to be a motivating factor that has had a dramatic impact on that person's life. The change to an altruistic path through life is usually quickly and readily apparent in all aspect of that person's life and dealings with others..

Your brother's change of behaviour toward you is motivated by his greed and his grasping for money. It did not appear to come from any personal change in his value system itself. You know his history with his own family, the people one hopes he would treat with utmost integrity. Instead, he has treated those of you in his family with absolutely no respect. I believe some of his actions are very close to, if not in fact, criminal. The money given for your father's funeral expenses is a perfect example. I believe there would be reason enough to involve the police.

My concern is not for your brother. My concern is for you and your apparent total lack of self respect in view of your brother's history of treating his family in such a deplorable manner. I am concerned for your inability to respect yourself enough to say goodbye to this sociopath. If I were you, I would seek some medical support for yourself in hopes of developing a healthy self-respect. Your father gave you the best advice ever - do not have business dealings with this man and make a firm statement to him of your decision.

There are two situations in your request - can people change - yes, many can and do. Should you expect your brother to have changed enough to do business with him? Hopefully, you know the answer to the question fo dealing with a sociopath. Get yourself some help.


About your selfish brother, you wonder if there’s hope for him; the real question is “What is he in your life to teach you?” Our best example Jesus Christ says “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28 KJV). It’s probably more about what kind of person you become because of him than what he becomes.

I have an ex-husband like your Sam. He was also abusive. I divorced him. He is now on wife #5. He has alienated his immediate family (parents, siblings), his children, friends. At first, he comes across as charismatic, loving, selfless but this is all, as all have found at, narcissistic in nature ... he wants the control, the attention, the glory, the money, the possessions ... but he doesn't want to do what it takes to earn those things.

I spoke to a psychologist about this as my children were growing up because I needed to be helpful to them in their relationship with him, which was forced by law. I was told that narcissism is the most difficult psychological symptom to overcome. It is sometimes environmental (a result of relationships growing up), but usually it is a combination of environment (which can be helped), personality (which is engrained and cannot always be overcome) and chemical imbalance (which can be helped). The result of this combination is someone who thinks they don't need help from anyone or any medication, so they don't get help when and where they could. And, even if they do, narcissism therapy often takes years and years ... the most successful being those who simply commit to therapy for a lifetime, both counseling and medication.

So, is there help for someone like Sam? YES. Are people like Sam willing to get the help and do the work it takes to overcome ... not always. Getting past their belief that they are above everyone else is the hardest part.

Please understand I don't mean to discourage. The encouragement lies in your understanding that it is not your fault, probably not even the fault of your parents or other siblings. And, you really can't do anything, so the pressure is off there. You can fill the void you have with friends and other family and offer Sam a real relationship if he wants it with a clear understanding that the relationship must have nothing to do with money. Then the ball is in his court.

Prayer, thoughts, Kathy

I have experienced Emma's same situation, but not with a brother, but with my mother. She nevered changed to the day she died. I had to distance myself from my mother in order to guard my heart. I still wrote her and saw her infrequently, but never allowed her to keep hurting me. When we talked on the phone and she started being critical of me, I told her I had to go. I did pray for her, and I believe God guarded my heart and directed me in ways to deal with her that never led me to stop loving her. I just had to love her in a different and distant way. Hope this helps.

After having read so many of the comments to Emma I see basically two types- the ones that warn to stay away from him and the ones that preach love and prayer can concur all.
I think the warnings to stay far away from him but protect your mother are the voices of experience and should be heeded. The other type are most likely from people that have never had to deal with someone like Sam or are too thick headed to know when they are being manipulated(not that there's anything wrong with that if that's the way they want to be). By the way my youngest brother is a full blown narcissist and has had many disappointed girlfriends along the way. In his sixties now he has found the perfect job for himself - working at a ski lodge helping people board the lift for the trip up the mountain.
These thirty second relationships with the skiers are perfect for him.
No one gets to know his dark side and he doesn't have the time to abuse them.

To keep your sanity, stay as far away from your brother--physically and every other way--but keep close to your mother because she needs you to stay sane

A question to consider: Can a person who has been warm, loving, connected, and your best friend for all his/her life change to become manipulative, cruel, petty, self absorbed?
In my life, it's never been a simple yes or no. I'm still grappling with this topic myself for some "people in my life" so I'm probably in the same boat as you are.

Lots of good advice here.....I recommend the book "People of the Lie" by M. Scott Peck.

It's been beyond comforting to read all of your comments. The word that kept coming up was sociopath so I did a lot of reading since Dr. Ben was kind enough to do this for me.

After a lot of contemplation I decided the best thing for everyone, including my brother and mom, is for me to pretend all is normal but to ignore my brother while I carry on with my mom as usual.

All of your comments and the reading that I did about sociopaths made me realize that there is no reason to hope that he will change.

I deeply appreciate each and every one of you for caring enough to respond to this.


I do believe you are on the right track. I would, however, direct you to a book entitled, 101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary, by Sister Patricia Proctor.

God is truly good, and He wants your brother's genuine love, but He will not force it. I'm sure you have prayed for other people in their illness or surgery, or they have prayed for you, so you probably know the power of intercessory prayer. The No. 1 intercessor we have with Christ, is His Mother.

The best intercessory prayer is the Rosary. Read the book.

God Bless! Will keep you and your entire family in my prayers.

Totally agree on the provisional diagnosis. There are tons of websites out there dealing with psychopaths / sociopaths. (blog, very good) (very busy forum) (one of the first blogs to deal with psychopaths)

There are some excellent books out there:

'Snakes in Suits', by Professor Hare, the foremost leader in the field. He devised the PCL-R (Psychopath Checklist Revised) which lists the main things to look for in psychopaths (it's on Wikipedia.

'Without Conscience', also by Professor Hare.

'The Mask of Sanity' by Dr. Cleckley - the original ground-breaking study of psychopaths. Skip the intro and go straight to the case studies -there are 16 of them. They're the first one's ever to be described in depth, and there wasn't as much known about psychopaths as there is now, but it's a good primer. It can be found free (legally) on the internet as his widow made a copy available.

‘Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationship of Inevitable Harm with Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Narcissists’ by Sandra L. Brown

There are also websites written by psychopaths: - a young female psychopath who's mask is off for the most part - an older male psychopath who's mask is on - a blog by a trans-gender psychopath

P.S. It would be useful if there was a 'subscribe to comments' check box (unless I've missed it, this text box has expanded to cover a bit of the page) so I could see if there were any follow-up comments.

Clearly, only those who want to change have to be willing and put a lot of effort to do it. Some people are more trouble than they are worth.
Mothers, however, are in a slippery-slope category because they give & receive unconditional love with their children. Your mother definitely has no boundaries and if you can somehow help control her funds before the selfish, lying, deceitful, manipulative, narcisisistic brother hurts her even more. Why do we, as humans, fear our loved ones will be angry with us? Your mom is only "feeding his habit" and needs to withdraw, she is the problem; your brother is only interested in himself at the cost of destroying his family. Mom may be open to get help. Your brother deserves a once-a-year phone call just so you know you've done your sibling job. If mom, however, decides to continue this behavior, your goal is to not get sucked in to the drama. Develop relationships with others so your " family or origin" takes a back seat and your new, deeper, sweet and caring relationships are true, honest and trustworthy. This doesn't mean your love for them has lessened, it means you have demanded respect.Good luck to you.

I always told my 2 sons/.... friends come and go, but you are brothers for life so get along. No one will ever help you, believe you, support you a sibling... it seems to have worked.

I'm an 81 year-old mom with a daughter of 54. My daughter abandoned me 3 years ago saying I never loved her. I worked hard full-time (as a divorced woman) to provide for her, caring for & protecting her. Phone calls, letters & cards, small gifts: no response, only silence. I've prayed for her well-being, asking for His help. Nothing. My alcoholic atheist sister has filled my daughter with harmful lies which my daughter believed. I've no comments or advice for the lady with a dishonest brother, nor any for me.

We are all naturally selfish people but some so much more than others or shameful opportunists. A lot has been said already but perhaps for all parents reading this post-- cultivate character in your children- it is your job as a scriptural command of God. Then work on their weak spots or flaws to improve that while they are YOUNG! That means Moms must see the importance of staying home to first recognize then correct the behaviour. Don't try & hide the ugliness that you see in your child. If more moms realized that training, loving & educating their children are more important than any so-called career we would have a different society to live in. Make your ambition really count. Have the right priorities. Kids w/o discipline living on 'microwaveable hot pockets'will be living a nutritional deficient nightmare with major issues later on.

My comments are in response to Dr. Kim’s call for “any advice for parents with younger children on how to foster loving sibling relationships that remain strong through different stages of adulthood.” I have found in my personal and professional life, that a way a person deals or relates with others − whether “others” take form as friends, co-workers, relatives, parents, siblings, step-family, or strangers at the grocery store – absolutely begins from what children are taught and what they observe at home as a child. That said, what we teach and emphasize over and over to our children is fundamental to their learning, growing, and nurturing of themselves and others over the course of their lifetime. The fundamental guiding principles in fostering loving relationships, no matter who the relationship is with, are simply the principles of 1) loving others as much as one loves self, 2) forgiving others, and 3) not bearing grudges or harboring any sense of revenge or self-entitlement. One cannot love, serve, and act kindly toward others when one’s primary concern is caught up in serving oneself. Selfishness inherently equates to unkindness toward others. This selfishness and inability to love and serve others then damages and even destroys relationships, whether those relationships are familial, friendships, or dating/marital. These principles are also the foundation of Christ’s teachings. To love others, and to have that love last a lifetime, is to be taught as a child the importance of love, and to observe it from parents. It is to learn to live selflessly. Learning and living it is a whole-life process, not a 12-step program one graduates from. It takes diligence as parents to teach and instill the principles of love, peacemaking, and forgiveness, and it takes diligence to model it. But the reward for such diligence comes when your children display compassionate, peacemaking behavior, who have learned from the same type of adult(s), and who continue to be so as adults.

Unfortunately your brother will probably never change but I know you must love and care for him or this situation wouldn't have you writing about it. You should keep in touch with him as much as you can tolerate but the best thing you can do to is pray for your brother. Prayer can change even the worst of people.

I have a similar situation as the one described regarding your mother and your siblings. Does your mother realize that it is not fair to give money to only one sibling? Can she tell the needy sibling that 'enough is enough because it is unfair to her other children?' My mother does not/did not see that constantly giving to one sibling was unfair to the others. She said she hoped that it would help him get out of the trouble he was in. But there was never enough because my brother mismanaged his finances and was always in 'trouble'. The rest of us, learned our lessons and became responsible adults. We did not want to worry our parents.

Great job Dr. Kim. Glad someone finally say it like it is and this is the best and most articulated article ever about realities in life. A lot of parents are overly doting to their children, even adult children, hence confusing love with spoiling them. As a result, they never learn the realities of life and how can they if they have never gone through their own journey of suffering, sacrifices and handling their own challenges. I totally agree especially with this statement you made Dr. Kim: "If an adult child is not fully committed to creating a life that they can support on their own, I feel that it becomes the parent's best move to step
back from being a lifeline so as to give the adult child the opportunity and impetus to learn how to gather food and maintain a safe shelter." What is appalling to me these days is even TV ads and reality shows are promoting bad culture and bad behavior, accepting and condoning such behaviors as acceptable. Thank you Dr. Kim...Elizabeth